ESL One Cologne Preview: Group A

Outside of the Majors, ESL One Cologne is about as pretigious as CSGO events get, and for good reason. The stadium, the crowd, and the history of the event are all of the highest standard, and it attracts the best teams every year. In this ESL One Cologne preview, we run the rule over Group A.


Astralis are favourites for this event, having recently won ECS5, in roughly the same way Germany were favourites for the World Cup. They have a great system, a good historical record, and top players in every position. In comparison to FaZe or Na’Vi they may lack a true superstar, but Dev1ce is capable of playing at that level, and Magisk has added his own magic to the team, making the Danes one of the most formidable five-man line-ups in the world.

The difference between Astralis and the rest is their tactical setup, which is built not only on intelligent rotation and innovative strats, but also on the philosophy that CSGO is a real sport, and needs preparation time as well as practice and play. While other teams have flown to China, Brazil and the Moon (well…), Astralis have taken time away from competition when need be, and should be a strong favourite here both for that, and their undoubted world number one form.


With the best will in the world, most people are probably not expecting ENCE to make much of an impact at ESL One Cologne 2018. The level of team involved is very high, and the Finnish five have only made it here via an invite, rather than earning their spot through qualification. This could mean they don’t have the greatest level of belief coming in either, but Finns are famously not that easy to shake, especially some of the Finns in this team.

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They will have to face off against fellow countryman SuNny when they take on mous, but can realistically only expect to compete with C9, NiP, G2 and Gambit at best. Versus the likes of Na’Vi, mous and Astralis there is very little chance of ENCE doing much, but scraping into the next stage is possible if everything goes their way.


The year started well for Cloud9, maybe a little too well … or at least that is how it seems. After winning the Major, the first a North American team had ever won, the five man group seemed to tear itself apart, with players not wanting to work together, and then star man Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip moving to SK/IMT/MiBr for a massive amont of money. That move has turned out to be a colossal failure so far, and the team he left behind is in disarray.

They will travel to the event with Oscar ‘mixwell’ Cañellas as their temporary fifth, which is actually a very interesting move in the context of their five-man unit. Compared to the expensive failure that was their FNS move, there is a chance things work out well here, and mixwell is offered another chance to work with a top NA org, hopefully this time in happier circumstances than before.


By virtue of basically standing still, or at least not shooting themselves in the foot, the Ninjas have regained the number one spot in Sweden, which used to be the home of top-level CSGO. Sure, there have been some moves made by the team, but the way Fnatic have totally torpedoed their own future in favour of some weird, political reshuffle where they take a decent in-game leader and replace him with a bad one has put NiP back on top.

However, this is a really strong group and there are at least four teams better than NiP on paper, so they will have to manage expectations. Getting out of the top half is possible, with ENCE, C9, Gambit and G2 there for the taking, but it will take a massive overperformance from the Ninjas for them to still be in the conversation at the sharp end of the weekend.


Making headlines and grand finals is a pretty nice life for the mousesports boys, and the guys in charge at the org must be loving it too. When they had the best player in the world in NiKo, they regularly made a splash before having to exit before the real action began, but since selling him to aZe they have gone from strength to strength, both on and off the server. Prior to this event, they tied up the transfer of Janusz ‘Snax’ Pogorzelski to replace Martin ‘STYKO’ Styk, and will hope he can bed in quickly.

They should be second favourites in this group, and maybe third overall to take the title after FaZe and Astralis, but the move will make it hard for them to instantly regain the level they had prior, and there are a number of questions that will arise from it. chief among them is how they get both Snax and oskar to work together, as the latter’s capricious nature is the stuff of legend.


In 2017, Gambit were major champions, but to look at their results since you’d think that entire team had been stolen away the moment that event ended. As it is, they still have the core and majority of that line-up on the books, but have look very average in the time between their greatest moment and today, partly due to the lack of their former in-game leader Zeus, who all experts said was being carried by his team.

They come into this event in the same way they have their last few, as a team that nobody expects will do much, but that we all know is very talented. In Hobbit, they have one of the best players in Europe, with the potential to improve even more, and it would be a tragedy if that story never went further than one massive win in 2017. Sadly though, he’ll most likely need to leave to write his next chapter.

The dark horses of ESL One Cologne 2018, Na’Vi come into it having won in China and Kiev recently, and being in possession of the greatest to ever do it. S1mple’s form dipped in China, but with the jetlag and general standard of play we saw there, there is no reason to think he’s fallen off entirely, and Cologne will be his chance to prove himself versus the very best after some pundits questioned the quality of Na’Vi’s team overall.

It is still tragic that s1mple is not in a better team, of course, but the worst he should expect is to make it out of this group in third, from which point anything is possible, providing they don’t meet Astralis. The Danes look to be too strong for any team right now, and the way Na’Vi play won’t bother them, so the men in black and gold will be hoping to avoid that draw as long as they can.


From having some of the best players in CSGO to … well, still having some of the best players in CSGO, it has been a really weird few months for G2. Their CEO may currently be a media darling, but his constant activity and strange energy has not turned into any success yet, and when you compare the investment he made to the recently departed EnVyUs, it seems mad that Hastr0 of the NV brand catches so much flack, while Ocelote only gets praise for paying €29k a month to guys who admit not trying.

This team, with Ex6TenZ, shox, bodyy, SmithZz and KennyS has a lot of talent, just like the last team did, but that is the point. Their last team was even better player for player, and spent a year failing before tearing itself apart while earning the massive money. At this point it feels like something is fundamentally wrong in G2 CSGO, and we don’t see them making an impact here, as much as we’d love to see Ex6 back on top.

Check out our Group B preview here